The Chancellor spoke today about his determination to tackle the dangers lurking in the small print of contracts, so let us look at the small print of the Chancellor’s Budget. Inflation is up, wages are stagnating, household debt is rising, and the NHS and social care system are on their knees. Social care has been cut by £4.6 billion in the past five years. A £2 billion increase was announced today, but that is not enough to deal with an ageing population and the huge cuts faced by local authorities.
The issue of Europe is not even in the small print of the Budget; there was not a single mention by the Chancellor of the European Union or the negotiations that we presume will begin at the end of this month. There is increasing concern that a hard Tory Brexit, in which we fall back on WTO rules and tariffs, will further harm our exports and inward investment, yet there was nothing today to assure businesses and investors that we will have a system that works for them in the years ahead.
Today is International Women’s Day, but there is very little in the Budget that does anything at all to help women. It is women who have borne 86% of the cuts—benefit cuts and cuts to in-work benefits—and tax rises over the past few years. Some £80 billion a year has been taken out of the pockets of women over the past seven years under this Tory-led Government, yet the Budget does nothing to reverse that trend.
When it comes to household debt, the figures are startling. The whole forecast is dependent on consumers continuing to spend, but that consumption is based on consumers continuing to rack up the debts. Our savings ratio has been falling since 2010, and is now at a record low. Unsecured debt went up by 10% last year. The household debt to income ratio is now at 145%, up 6% in just one year.